Twelve months ago, Ireland were hotly tipped to win the Six Nations. Instead, a string of inconsistent performances, the uncertainty over Brian O’Driscoll’s future and some terrible luck with injuries (they had to play over half of their match against Italy with a forward on the wing) meant that they finished well off the pace.
For the Scots it was a little of the same old story, some good performances but ultimately not able to finish games off and they were the only team beaten by a terrible French side.
Both will be hoping for a lot more this time around. Ireland have signalled their intent to carry to passengers, leaving the brilliant but injury-prone wingers Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo out of their squad for the first two games. Scotland have gone with experience, although they will be missing the veteran prop Euan Murray, who doesn’t play on Sundays for religious reasons and who is in any event hampered after suffering a freak hand injury in a club game.
All things being equal, it is hard to look beyond the Irish for this game. Every side finds them tough to beat at home and memories will be fresh of the November game in which they almost ended the All Blacks’ unbeaten run. Scotland were also a better side during the autumn, but still seem to lack the essential level of talent that you need to beat the Irish on their own patch.
For this game, back Ireland to win comfortably in your sports picks – an 11-15 point margin will net you 6.0 at William Hill. And if you fancy taking a chance in the ‘first tryscorer’ market, why not go for O’Driscoll to open his final Six Nations with a flourish, at sports betting odds of 13.0 across the board?